Category Archives: Space

A long time ago…on Barsoom?

The good folks at SFSignal had a very interesting review of John Carter, the (apparently quite faithful) adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars serials. One could make the argument that Carter was the first space opera — Burroughs didn’t really care how the aliens and airships worked, just that they worked and looked cool, creating an exotic backdrop for what might have otherwise been a run-of-the-mill adventure story.

The reviewer pointed out that, in many ways, he’d seen John Carter before. It was called Star Wars, Flash Gordon, and a variety of other sci-fi adventures and space operas that made it to the big screen ahead of Carter. Burroughs may have been a forerunner, but others took that ball and ran further and farther with it. Indeed, it’s Star Wars, not John Carter, that’s set the standard for space opera.

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A tour of the Known Worlds: Mercury, Part II

Once the stern of a brig, these windows now look into a hostelry on Elizabeth Mercuris.

Sorry about the lack of blogging here, folks. I was out in beautiful Los Angeles for my day job, and things were both busy and interesting (in good ways). I also had a chance to meet up with fellow NLA agency-mate Jason M. Hough for some quality Mexican food in San Juan Capistrano. No swallows were spotted, but the dinner was excellent and the authorial company even better. Jason’s a stand-up guy and a great writer, and if you’re not reading his blog or following him on Twitter, you should. His book, The Darwin Elevator, is out next year, and I for one can’t wait to read it. Continue reading

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A tour of the Known Worlds: Mercury

When we last left off on our little tour of the Known Worlds (as featured in Spacebuckler) we had just explored the mysteries of cloud-shrouded Venus. Next up: Mercury, the sunniest spot in the solar system. This appellation is not a good thing, mind you.

The real planet Mercury is a small ball of superheated rock just 36 million miles from the sun (on average). On the sunny side, temperatures reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. On the dark side, eternally pointing away from the sun, temperatures hover around minus 280 degrees. And you can forget about any meaningful atmosphere — the few gaseous atoms not blasted into space by the solar winds aren’t exactly breathable. Of course, you’d either freeze or fry anyway.

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A tour of the Known Worlds: Venus

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and Tweets and whatnot about writing lately. I had a few things I could say about all that, but I realized I had contributed more than enough to the stew of often contradictory and occasionally maddening advice that would-be writers seem to covet and trade like dog-eared baseball cards.
Enough, I say! Let’s have some fun. Starting today, and until I run out of worlds, I’m going to take this blog on a tour of the solar system — or the Known Worlds, as I call them in Spacebuckler. These aren’t the eight (formerly nine) planets you’re used to. These are the kind of worlds an 18th century Royal Navy frigate would visit…if said frigate could escape the surly bonds of Earth, of course.

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Exploration! Sponsored by…

The modern face of exploration. And marketing.

Talk about corporate synergies. Recently, an underwater archaeological team uncovered famed privateer Henry Morgan’s flagship, the Satisfaction, near Panama. Interestingly enough, this team had run out of money earlier in its survey. Riding to the rescue was…Captain Morgan. Not the three-centuries dead pirate. The rum maker, subsidiary of multinational beverage conglomerate Diageo.

We ascribe a great deal of romance to exploration, with images of sailors scanning the horizon with a glass, or a starship captain peering into the unknown on the viewscreen. But you know what really powers exploration? Profits. Columbus didn’t ship out for China due to a hankering for dim sum. He wanted to find a quicker trade route, and thus reap the rewards from the Spanish crown. Morgan was working for the English crown, which was competing with the Spanish for the spoils of the New World. And let’s remember that the East India Trading Company did plenty of exploring — and exploiting — in its 275-year, highly profitable history. Continue reading

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Research: It’s not just for nonfiction

Before I actually took the plunge and wrote a novel, I had assumed rather naively that fiction didn’t require a lot of intensive research. And sure, compared to the nonfiction books I’ve written, Spacebuckler doesn’t exactly require footnotes or citations. That said, I found myself researching all kinds of crazy stuff for the book. Such as…. Continue reading

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I write, therefore I revise

Get used to this image. If you write, you

Last week, I packed off the fifth version of Spacebuckler to my awesome and always-upbeat agent, Sara Megibow. In celebration, I thought I’d blog about what revisions mean to a would-be novelist like myself. (Actually, in terms of celebration, I had a Brooklyn Lager. But you get the idea.)

It took me roughly five months or so to pound out the first draft of my book. And naturally, being all kinds of green and uninformed, I got out the red pen, gave it a line edit and declared it finished. And yes, I still managed to get an agent, despite this severe but blessedly temporary case of shortsightedness. Anywya, Sara responded to my partial manuscript in August of last year, declaring the idea compelling, but the plotting far less so. She agreed to read a revision. And thus began versions two thorough five. She offered to rep me after version four. Continue reading

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One month in, and already remiss

I wonder, do they have football there? Or beer? How about aspiring novelists?

Horrible, isn’t it? Two weeks since I last blogged. So I think we’re in for another batch of random thoughts.

(And yes, I recognize that, if I had written these topics out when they occured to me, and in 140 characters or less, I would indeed have an interesting Twitter account, despite my ambivalence about tweeting.) Continue reading

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The Betelgeuse brouhaha

She's gonna blow! Eventually.

Is the star Betelgeuse about to go supernova? Will Earth get a “second sun” for a few weeks? Will night turn into day? And did the Mayans (or Incans, Nostradamus, Egyptians, crystal-clutching New Agers) predict it all, just in time for the 2012 faux-pocalypse? Continue reading

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What an astronomer’s memoir can say about writing

Poor PlutoIt’s pretty rare for me to take a book review to task, especially if A) it’s not my book being reviewed; and B) it’s in The New York Times Book Review. I mean, seriously, it’s The New York Times. In my experience, they tend to know what they’re talking about.

But this past weekend, I saw a review that I really disagreed with — and in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t even read the book yet (though it’s on my list). Instead, I was surprised that the reviewer didn’t quite seem to grok the kind of book he was reviewing. Continue reading

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